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10 Quick Q's with Curtis Gant of Living Lawless Apparel

Curtis Gant

Curtis Gant, showing off one of the many variations of the Living Lawless tee.

You might not know Curtis Gant personally, but if you walk around downtown Lancaster long enough, there's a good chance you've seen his shirts. Living Lawless Apparel, the brand that Gant started as a class project in 2012, is now omnipresent on shirts, hats, phone cases and just about anything else Gant can get his hands on.

This Friday, May 10, marks the first official Living Lawless pop-up shop at Community Room on King. The event features exclusive apparel, raffles and performances from Laddie Moran, Pineapple Papi and others. We sat down with Gant a few days before his 25th birthday to talk about the pop-up event, the different facets of his art and more.

Is this your first official pop-up shop?

Yeah, it’s been a long time coming. People have been asking for a physical location for a while, and I’ve been holding out on that by doing events here and there. Everybody that really loves the brand, they’re going to want to come out to this. I wanted to have a reason to do the pop-up shop outside of just doing it. I looked up when Lancaster was founded, and it was May 10, and on this year that happens to be a Friday, so it was perfect. It was totally coincidental, but it works. So the logo will tie into Lancaster and Founding Day.

You’ll also have a live painting going on during the event? What’s your relationship with Dizzuane, the artist?

We started shooting photography. Our relationship grew when we went down to Art Basel [in Miami]. We started throwing ideas at each other. At Art Basel, he was painting a jacket, and I was offering him money to buy it off of him. He had it on his back and I was like, “How much do you want?” He was so persistent in not giving it up. When we came back, I bought another jacket and he did it up for free. He’s just one of those artists I know I’ll be working with for years to come. Adam Serrano is another one, he’s amazing. He did the rose logo, the flyer, Facebook banner, pretty much everything.

Do you find it’s easy to find artists to work with in Lancaster?

Absolutely. Lancaster has a lot of amazing artists, no matter what kind of art it is. Whether it’s music, videography, photography, graphic design, there’s a lot of talent. There just isn’t a platform to express their work. A lot of people are out here moving, they just don’t have anywhere to share it. I’d love to create a platform for artists, whether it’s events for artists or photographers. That’ll come in the future. The pop-up will be the start of that.

How long have you been doing photography?

It all started in college. I was doing photography throughout. I had bought a camera, I think it was a Canon T2 or T3. Right at the end of my last half of my last year of school, we had to do a project where we had to brand a product. I had been doing a lot of screen printing at the time, so I thought I’d do a clothing line. Living Lawless came out of that final project. I didn’t expect to actually start selling product until people started asking me about the shirts. I had no clue what I was getting into, just buying black and white shirts and hoping to make a couple bucks. There are photos somewhere from back in 2013 when I would have just gone out with a couple of homeboys, threw T-shirts on and shoot photos.

Since you have experience on both sides of the camera, do you think it gives you an advantage?

I think so. As far as the photography side goes, I don’t personally like to model, but I have before, so I can explain to [a model] exactly the angle I’m looking for. When you’re designing something, you think of things a lot differently. Even on the designing end, you just look at things differently. It's funny, all the pictures of me are like, me looking away, or me looking at a phone or computer or something [laughs].

One of the guys performing at the pop-up is Laddie Moran. I know you take most of his photos and he can usually be seen in a Living Lawless tee. What’s your working relationship like with him?

I was just talking to him on my way over here. We have an awesome relationship. It started at a show, I think at the Chameleon Club, he helped me pack up my car. I didn’t even know him at the time, he just picked up some boxes and helped. We chopped it up for a little, and there was a natural energy. It developed throughout the years, where I’m now basically his photographer. I’ll hit him up to go shoot, and he’ll be like, “I don’t have a fresh cut,” so I tell him, “Put a hat on!” It goes back to the thing about platforms. I have my own platform with the clothing line, and he has a platform in music. It happened naturally. He knows if he has a show, I’m there.

Is Living Lawless still essentially a one-man operation? Are you shipping orders yourself?

Yes, I’m operating right out of my house. A lot of my sales are in person, but if you don’t have an online store, it’s like, where are you going to sell your product? My in-person sales is where I kill it. I actually like it that way, because I can interact with people and explain what the brand means. It makes me feel good. It’s funny when I see people wearing the shirt and they don’t know that I made it. They know me, but they don’t know me. I eventually want to start delegating jobs to people, but I want them to show that they want it. It’s hard building a team, because you’ve got to have people that are willing to play the role for free right now, until we get to a point where we can really profit. People see all the work I put in and think, “Oh, this dude is making thousands of dollars,” but they don’t think about the overhead.

Do you think there’s misunderstandings about this type of business?

Yeah, that’s a big thing. You really have to be clear-cut with people. You just have to let people gravitate towards you.

I saw recently that you’re going to be coming out with Living Lawless license plates soon. No spoilers, but are there other types of merch you’re hoping to put the logo on at some point?

I’m not a fan of fanny packs myself, but I get asked all the time about those. I was just down at J. Cole’s Dreamville Festival in North Carolina, and I couldn’t bring a backpack into the festival. I was bummed because I like to carry extra shirts and things in with me. I had a fanny pack and slapped an iron-on logo on it. I threw it up on social media, and I probably had 10 to 15 people saying, “Bro, I need this.” It was just the event, a couple people offered to buy it. I’m keeping it for now just in case a scenario like that comes up again. I’ll throw this one out there too, because I just put the order in – visors and umbrellas are coming, too.

How much of the job is just traveling to different cities to get the word out?

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more of that, but I’ve been traveling since day one, honestly. When I first started, I was going out to Philly a lot because I was managing a music artist at the time. We were traveling at least once a week, sometimes two or three times a week for little events and fashion shows. I met Reed Dollaz, the battle rapper, out there, that was huge. He wore one of the shirts during one of his battles, and the video has over a million views now. Just the other day, someone was telling me that they came across the brand watching his videos.

We’re spread all across PA, so I’m trying to get out to new areas now, like Baltimore. I hit Maryland a lot, I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. Miami has been my biggest step lately, going to Art Basel opened my eyes. I got to go on the tour bus with PnB Rock and Trippie Red, because my homie is the stage production manager for PnB Rock. I love Lancaster, but it’s a grind. You really have to be out here. There’s always something going on, there’s more money flowing, obviously. Every time I get out to these different cities, it exposes me to new opportunities.

The Living Lawless Pop-Up Shop takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, May 10, at Community Room on King, 106 W. King St., Lancaster. Click here for more information.

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Kevin Stairiker is a features writer for Fly After 5. He is a graduate of Temple University and enjoys writing in third person. When he isn't writing, he's probably playing guitar for a litany of bands, reading comics or providing well-needed muscle at